Medically reviewed by
Dacelin St Martin, MD
Triple board-certified in Sleep Medicine,
Internal Medicine, and Pediatrics.
Many of us know the basic tips and tricks for a good night’s sleep; stick to a bedtime routine, create a comfortable sleeping environment, watch what you eat/drink, and cut down on screen time before bed.
More recently, researchers say that the quality of our thoughts as we snooze off may be just as important. Sleep scientists suggest practicing something called savoring as you prepare to fall asleep.
Savoring, vividly imagining a positive memory with attention to detail, is an evidence-based method that can decrease stress, improve mood, and reduce anxiety and depression.
Now, scientists believe it can also improve the quality of your sleep.
What Does Savoring Before Sleep Mean?
Savoring is the ability to recall, appreciate, and re-create the positive feelings you experienced in your life.
In short, savoring before going to bed means that you deliberately remember a past pleasurable experience and channel the positive emotions that it created within you.
That differs from other techniques you can practice before going to sleep, such as meditation to declutter and quiet your mind or practicing gratitude to focus on what you have rather than what you lack.
Savoring is all about feeling rather than just thinking. It’s about helping your brain focus on recreating pleasurable emotions with the assistance of a happy memory before falling asleep.
How Can Savoring Help You Sleep?
Researchers have shown that your mood can significantly affect sleep quality.
That’s where savoring comes in. By reliving and savoring a happy memory, you can uplift your mood before bedtime, which helps you sleep better.
Moreover, cortisol is a hormone that your body releases in response to stress, and research shows that having high cortisol levels in the evening can lead to poor sleep.
Studies suggest that remembering the “good times” and all the good feelings associated with them can reduce the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis stress response in your brain and lower your stress hormone (cortisol) levels.
Therefore, savoring a positive experience when you go to bed can help calm your body, reduce cortisol levels, and improve sleep.
How To Practice Savoring Before Sleep?
Now you know that reminiscing a happy experience in great detail while drifting off can help you sleep better. So how do you savor and reap the benefits?
1) Choose Your Happy Memory in Advance
Instead of going to bed and then trying to rummage through your mind for a pleasurable memory, pick your happy memory beforehand.
During the day, try to recall a moment or event where you felt overwhelming happiness and peace.
It can be something big like your graduation day or when you finally got that promotion. It can also be pretty simple, such as spending the day at home relaxing with great company or just laying in the grass under the sun carefree. What matters the most is to make sure you pick a memory that makes you feel good.
When you’re finally in bed, re-create that memory with all your senses. You can start by imagining the location, the colors, the faces of people or pets, the outfits, the surroundings, and so on.
Then, think about a distinctive scent that you associate with that memory. It can be the smell of perfume, the ocean, a home-cooked meal, flowers, or anything else.
Reminisce about voices or sounds you might have heard, such as someone laughing, a conversation, glasses clinking, or wind rustling through the leaves.
Focus on what things tasted like and felt during that moment in time. Try to summon that memory with as much detail as possible with all five senses. That will help your body focus on recreating those same sensations as you fall asleep.
2) Practice Savoring During the Day
At first, it might be challenging to focus on bringing back all those desirable emotions after a long, hectic day. An intrusive thought could interrupt the memory, and your mind could wander elsewhere. You know what they say, “practice makes perfect.”
Practicing savoring during the day will train your mind to focus on a single positive memory and make it more vivid and attainable each time. Eventually, your brain will become accustomed to returning that memory to the surface more easily.
3) Declutter Your Mind Before Bedtime
Try to address things causing your worry or stress early in the evening. You can write them down, talk about them with a partner, or even say them out loud with no one around.
This practice lets you release negative thoughts or feelings early instead of having them sneak up on you once your head is on that pillow. As a result, your brain can focus on and savor more positive thoughts while in bed.
4) Make it a Habit
It takes time to develop a habit, and savoring is no different. Repetition and consistency are key.
Don’t become frustrated if you find it hard to practice savoring at first. The memories may feel foggy or distant when you first start, but eventually, they become more realistic and accessible.
Get used to manifesting those ecstatic memories every night. With time, you’ll start doing it without even making an effort.
Is Savoring Only Good For Sleep?
Scientists found that reminiscing on pleasurable events not only improves sleep quality but can also achieve the following positive outcomes:
● It can reduce feelings of depression
● It may lower feelings of anxiety
● It can increase happiness and life satisfaction
● It can decrease the severity of post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD) symptoms
While it’s true that gratitude and appreciation are crucial for a healthy life, savoring can be even more beneficial for your mental health, physical health, and quality of sleep. Once you start sleeping well, you’ll begin feeling well and performing better in everyday tasks.
And it always helps to remember what profuse happiness feels like and that it’s out there waiting for us to catch it again.
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